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The End of the Dragon?

Gatorade All-Star Workout Day Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

If you haven’t heard, Chris Devenski was diagnosed with Bone Spurs which will require surgery to remove, effectively ending his season.

Our sister site over at Amazin Avenue, put together an article when Syndergaard and Matz dealt with them.

What are Bone Spurs?

When a joint is unstable, the body will naturally respond by building up bone spurs to help stabilize the joint. This is not uncommon, particularly in the elbows of pitchers. Generally, the bone spurs are not a major concern - and some doctors advocate against removing them as they do serve the purpose of stabilizing the joint to prevent larger injuries. Unfortunately, there are times when they cause discomfort, pain, or limitations in regards to movement. In these scenarios, an arthroscopic surgery is generally recommended as it is minimally invasive and has a lesser risk of surgery complications. There is a risk of bone spurs or foreign bodies breaking off and causing damage if not addressed.

If you are interested more in the surgery, here’s a video that shows the procedure itself. For those who are queasy about these sort of things, feel free to skip the video (there’s no blood or gore, but it is a camera inside someone’s elbow. “

In reality, bone spurs are fairly common, and are generally a growth of bone to help stabilize the muscle. There are doctors who advocate against their removal unless they’re causing pain or damage to other parts of the affected body parts.

With surgery being the next step forward, Devenski will be facing a 3-month timeline, effectively ending his season.

What are the lasting impacts?

From a pitching standpoint, unless there was damage to the UCL, generally bone spur surgeries do not have a large impact on a pitcher’s ability going forward. There is a possibility for improvement if the bone spurs were restricting motion that impacted the pitchers delivery.

It’s possible that the bone spur had an impact on Devenski’s delivery, which may help explain how he went from one of the most dominant relievers in the game of baseball, to a bullpen filler. How good was Devenski for those don’t remember?

Deeper dive into Devenski’s performance:

In 2016-17, Devenski threw 189 innings to the tune of a 2.38 ERA (2.83 FIP), recording more than a K per inning (9.07 K/9) and an elite WHIP of 0.926.

There’s an argument that could be made on potential over use, but following that, Devenski’s 2018-2020 has been far more disappointing coming in at 120 IP of 4.88 ERA (4.63 FIP), still a strong K/9 (9.06), and his WHIP creeping up to 1.292.

So what caused the change? Well there’s a few things to look at, while Devenski’s velocity actually increased (up until 2020 - where he’s had a 1.8 mph drop on his fastball). But Devenski’s claim to fame has always been his legendary “Circle of Death” change-up.

That circle change is a thing of beauty, and while a lot of people think that it’s no longer an effective pitch, it has been remarkably consistent producing xwOBA’s of 2016 - .238, 2017 - .213, 2018 - .236, 2019 - .241, 2020 - .175. The only concerning element I see with that pitch is that the spin rate has been consistently increasing, which is not necessarily a positive thing (unlike a fastball/breaking pitches).

As you dig deeper, it’s surprising to see that Devenski abandoned his curveball after 2016 which is surprising given the strong results and peripherals of the pitch.

Additionally, his zone %, swing %, chase %, etc all don’t show any major indications that his change is the problem.

Devenski’s largest issue looks to be the change in his profile from a HR/9, which has continued to skyrocket (0.33 -> 1.23 -> 1.71 -> 1.70 -> 2.45).

And while Devenski’s fastball was never his calling card, it went from very effective in the 2016-2017 season (9.6 and 4.7 pitch values) to a negative value pitch (-4.6, -4.4, and -3.8). Which is never a good sign for a pitch thrown over 40% of the time.

What’s next for Devenski?

It’s hard to say. Devenski will be out for the remainder of the 2020 season, but the question lingers on if the Astros will tender him a contract for the 2021 season. The Astros were able to avoid arbitration with Devenski settling on a $2 million dollar contract for 2020. Arbitration salaries do not go backwards, so that sets the baseline of dollar values we are talking about.

Devenski has accumulated 0.1 WAR across the 2018-2020 seasons, hardly a number that would be difficult to replicate with replacement level minor league players. With the Astros having some payroll challenges ($27 mil over the Competitive Balance Threshold in 2020), and some significant potential free agent departures - there will be a question if Devenski is tendered a contract for 2021.

It’s sad to say, but we may have seen the last pitch from Devenski in an Astros uniform unless they believe the bone spurs were a cause of the degradation in performance.

What do you think - will the Astros tender Devenski a contract? What was your favorite Devenski moment?